How my six year old nabbed a Barbie dream house using email and social marketing

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Recently, my six year old daughter came to my wife and me and told us bluntly, “I want a Barbie Dream House.” Our knee jerk reaction was “hell no.” What adults do you know relish the idea of having a three foot tall pink and purple shrine to modern injection molding wonder taking up valuable square footage their house? Thankfully, we held back the profanity and after a exchanging a few words and glances determined the answer. It’s one any parent would probably give.

We told her: “You can get one but you have to earn the money to buy it”

Then came the questions and ideas. How much are they? Guess what, a Barbie Dream House is $175. Wow! I know it has two elevators but come on.

Next question was how to make $175 and do it at a faster pace than the year and a half it would take if she saved her allowance. How would she earn it? The go-to answer around our house when the kids need to make some extra dollars is the default “you could sell one of your toys on Craigslist.” Needless to say, that wasn’t flying. The next logical idea was to have a lemonade stand.

I love lemonade stands and what they can teach budding entrepreneurs. However, $175 is a tall order for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in a sleepy neighborhood on a cold day.

I sensed an opportunity to apply some entrepreneurial thinking and an excuse to purchase some Stumptown coffee beans. The answer was to have an espresso stand. Getting coffee beans, milk, espresso machine, etc. together was all easy. What made this endeavor interesting was the way my daughter (with our help, of course) was able to attract customers.

Back in the 80s when I was a paper carrier, the paper would have contests on which carriers in the area could sign up the most new customers. I won that contest twice with a simple prospecting technique that worked quite well with my process of delivering paper door to door. It was just knocking on doors and asking the question, “Do you want to subscribe to the Freeport Journal Standard?” There was no content marketing, no telemarketing, no freemium models, no tweeting, no email. It was old school vacuum cleaner sales person type stuff. For those of you who were participants in these types of activities, you remember it was an effective way to get kids to do your sales and marketing for you. Little League must have made a killing getting us to hock generic candy bars to our friends, family and neighbors for a 40% markup.

Anyway, the options for getting the word out were much more limited. For whatever reason, when I looked at my daughter, that was my context. I envisioned this young kid knocking on doors or setting up on a busy corner and waiting for foot traffic. Do you pick door to door sales model or a retail model or both? How’s that for your first introduction to go to market strategy.

My context was off. What I and others from my era didn’t have back in the 80’s that my daughter did was a neighborhood email list and social media. She didn’t realize how valuable that was and probably won’t ever. I stood there in awe as my wife hammered out a few lines and with a click of a send button, hundreds of households were alerted. A few more seconds and the note went out on Facebook. Within minutes, thousands of people were made aware that a young enterprising girl was on a mission and you could come participate by purchasing coffee and scones.

Needless to say, the results spoke for themselves. At 7am on a Saturday morning, neighbors started walking up and driving by. One couple was on their way to the airport and swung in for some americanos. Another rolled down the block in his bathrobe and grabbed a latte and blueberry scone.

After a couple hours, my daughter netted about $200.

I kept trying to point out that high margin items like coffee and scones combined with a modern way to distribute the message was a key part of this working, but I was quickly shot down by requests to head to Toys-R-Us right then. My wife and I looked at each other at one point and thought we might start doing this every Saturday morning.

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